By Brad Thomason, CPA
I ran by the gym today on the way home from work. It was a little more crowded than usual. I saw a number of familiar faces, as well as some folks that I didn’t recognize, but who were clearly not strangers to being in a gym, somewhere.
Then there were the others. The ones who looked a little lost. The ones that you could just tell had rolled in on the wave of New Year’s resolution.
Now let me state in the most emphatic terms that I am a fan of anyone who actually makes the effort to try to do something positive for themselves. The spirit was spot on. But for most of them the execution was unfortunately otherwise.
If you paid even passing attention you could quickly see a couple of themes. Some were doing exercise that were all wrong for what they were there for (which, to be frank, was pretty obviously weight loss). Some were using awful form, either progressing through the movements in incorrect and sometimes even dangerous ways, and doing way too many repetitions. Many were doing both.
Here are a couple of general observations about the world of health and fitness. First, there’s an absolute ton of information out there, yet strangely most of it is of low quality. Second, the process of getting in shape takes time. It’s like erosion in reverse (or for all you Words With Friends people, it's accretive...). You become a person who is in good shape a little at a time.
In both of these respects, the topic of proper health and fitness shares total overlap with proper financial planning and management.
You cannot show up at the gym after a long hiatus, do an especially rigorous workout in some scale-balancing effort to make up for lost time, and end up with anything other than a whole lot of pain. Not to mention a whopper of a disincentive to go back until the first of next year. Small doses are the key, spread over many weeks (even months), with very incremental goals to make a little progress at a time.
Similarly, putting together the best possible plan is going to take some time. If you can accept that going in, you’ll be able to make the proper investment without cutting corners, or charging off into a bad transaction before you have a solid sense of what you need to be doing.
Nor can you really expect someone else to put in the time for you. You can get a good plan from someone else; though if you are like most folks I’ve talked to over the years, you are going to be unwilling to spend the thousands of dollars that someone who actually knows how to do it right will charge. But even then, it may not be a great plan. A great plan should be a reflection of what you want your life to look like, and often the nuances of that are hard to convey to someone else. Beyond that, a plan is a framework for making decisions. It doesn’t deal with a static matter, and the plan itself will need endless tweaks in the years to come as actual data replaces future-looking assumptions. You are the most likely person to provide a truly great plan for you and your family, but only if you work at it, over a sustained period of time.
So please do go to the “gym.” But don’t expect to get to where you need to be in a handful of sessions, and don’t make the mistake of thinking that packing a lot into each session will somehow make it take less time or make up for ground that maybe you should have already covered, but haven’t. Give yourself the time to make progress in the right way. Lifting a bunch of tiny dumbbells isn’t going to engender any meaningful improvement, nor is an endless rep count going to do anything but make you too sore to come back later in the week. Fortunately, we’ve got a lot of information about what to do.
But you gotta be the one to do it for the results to be as good as they can be.
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